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Script for audio journal Volume 4 Harlequin's Poles

SQ 37 Harlequin’s Poles

repentEntry 37: Harlequin’s Poles- Several bodies ago, I read Repent, Harlequin! Said the Ticktock Man by Harlan Ellison. Now, isn’t that an appropriately sci-fi opening sentence? The belief that the human body turns over on a cellular (or is it atomic?) level every 7 to 10 years has whiskers on it, of course.

George Bernard Shaw, in the preface to one of his novel’s wrote in 1905, Physiologists inform us that the substance of our bodies (and consequently of our souls) is shed and renewedshaw at such a rate that no part of us lasts longer than eight years: I am therefore not now in any atom of me the person who wrote The Irrational Knot in 1880. The last of that author perished in 1888; and two of his successors have since joined the majority. Fourth of his line, I cannot be expected to take any very lively interest in the novels of my literary great-grandfather.

Interesting thought: can we shed responsibility for our actions as easily as we shed skin cells, I wonder? feynmannRichard Feynman, one of the truly great minds of 20th Century science, relates, once in Hawaii, I was taken to see a Buddhist temple. In the temple, a man said, “I am going to tell you something that you will never forget.” And then he said “To every man is given the key to Heaven. The same key opens the gates of Hell.”

 He went on to write, in an essay entitled The Value of Science, the thing I call my individualityatom is only a pattern or dance, that is what it means when one discovers how long it takes for the atoms of the brain to be replaced by other atoms. The atoms come into my brain, dance a dance, and then go out – there are always new atoms, but always doing the same dance, remembering what the dance was yesterday.

One of the dances he was remembering was the fact that he, as a member of the Manhattan project, was one of the architects of the Atomic bombs that obliterated the abombcentres of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

But let’s go back to Harlequin and the Ticktock Man. We have all the time in the world; unlike the dystopia of the short story where human beings are rigorously regimented and where falling behind schedule is punishable by having that time taken away from your allotment of that precious commodity. When your time runs out, the Ticktock Man switches off your heart- although whether your heart was ever really a going concern is a question posed by this piece of speculative fiction.

The image of the harlequin reminds me of the reality of my employment for more thanbells 40 years. My life was punctuated by bells as I rushed from class to class or class to staffroom or staffroom to class, always behind, arms full of exercise books not yet marked, the Ticktock Man pursing his lips as, once again, I stumbled into the classroom to be faced with faces waiting with me for the summons of the next bell.

Like a lot of people, clowns have not been a joyful memory from childhood but a vision that has usually had ambiguous overtones. Charlie Chaplin’s “The chaplinTramp” is one of the most memorable clown variants and in The Great Dictator the great comic showed greater insight than most of his contemporaries in satirising the contemptible Nazis and their odd-looking leader. The representation of the clown as trickster plays to our dislike of those in power and we cheer when pomposity is punctured yet remain wary of the jeering japester who capers on the edge of our comfort zone sneering sardonically at our incapacity for truly independent action; the sad ordinariness of us.

But there is respite from the mundane humdrum of the daily round that consumes us from the tick of eyelid snapping open to the tock of it drawing down the blinds on another rotation. And that respite takes many forms. For some, it is the opening of a novel at thearms exact spot where the promise of swift submersion beckons like a lover’s arms; for others, closing the door on the world to resume a passion (or hobby) suffices. For only a few does it comprise what occupies most of our waking hours. Which explains the persistence of poetry.

As Carl Sandburg says, Poetry is a sliver of the moon lost in the belly of a golden frog. Or, as he more mischievously defines it, Poetry is the achievement of the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits. An interesting, final definition, Poetry is a dance music measuring buck-and-wing follies along with the gravest and stateliest dead-marches. Collins clog1dictionary defines buck-and-wing as a boisterous tap dance, derived from Black and Irish clog dances. Dance, like music, is inextricably bound up in time yet together they conspire to overcome its tyrannical hold on our existence.

So let’s dance on, oblivious to the Watcher at the window, waiting for the music to stop; waiting for the process to resume its relentless tick-tock goose-step, to take us over the edge of everything that ever was.

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Script for audio journal Volume 4 Harlequin's Poles

SQ 38 Airman

who-am-iEntry 38: Airman- Who do you think you are? What a wonderful title for a TV concept. We are all a bit curious about who we are and where we come from. As kids, of course, we riff on the idea that we are, in fact, the progeny of aristocrats or some impossibly glamorous couple who have somehow become sundered from their child who is now, for some unfathomable reason, languishing in a common-or-garden family from Dullsville. If only we could be re-united!

Can you imagine the celebrations! How they would be marked by fireworks and headlinesnazi-perfect-family and flashing bulbs as the paparazzi of the world clambered over one another to gain the perfect shot of the perfect lost child now returned to the bosom of the perfect family waiting in their until-now-imperfect paradise which is now complete and unassailable. Some say this is the reason that stories of blue heaven are replete in the literature of the world’s religious traditions: at heart, we are all kids yearning for apotheosis. (By the way, do you respond positively to the image of the family here? What do you think when I tell you that this is an image made by the Nazis to promote their ideas of what the family should be?)

In 1972 I first read James McAuley’s poem Because and it made me cry. Just arrived injames-mcauley Australia from Ireland, I was trying to acclimatise by reading the poets of the place. This seemed (and seems) to me as good a way of getting to know the lie of the land as any other. Feeling homesick, I wondered if I would see my parents and siblings again.

My father had dammed up his Irish blood/Against all drinking praying fecklessness,/And stiffened into stone and creaking wood… Small things can pit the memory like a cyst:/Having seen other fathers greet their sons,/I put my childish face up to be kissed/After an absence. The rebuff still stuns/My blood.

McAuley wrote about a time when fathers were distant and mothers affectionate. This equation obtained on my side of the world; additionally, in my time, kids were also meant to be thankful for the peace won by their elders and betters without asking too many questions.

arubaIn 1964 we had returned to Northern Ireland, for the last time, from the sunny sojourn that was my childhood; from the Lotus Land that was the small Caribbean island of Aruba where my father had worked for twenty five years as a tug-master for the oil company founded by old man Rockefeller, one of the icons of Capitalism. From time to time, to break the monotony, I would rummage about in the attic of a rainy day- and the small coastal village of Cushendall had more than its share of these that year, as I remember it.

There was, in an old, green steamer trunk, brass-bound with an ornate hasp and decayinggreen-steamer-trunk leather handles, piles of newspapers, copies of The Irish News from the years of the Second World War. And I began to read: there in black and white was the frisson of living in exciting times. A newspaper that doesn’t know if it will publish the next day, courtesy of a German bomb, has rather more focus than the indulged rags of peaceful epochs.

A bit like a man facing execution- as Doctor Johnston said- it concentrates the mind wonderfully. At any rate, this was history. My father and mother were in its pages, in very, very, small print- he hadn’t been a general at Stalingrad oil-tankerbut has watched a U-Boat blow a friend out of the water, literally. Strange how glibly that phrase “blown out of the water” falls from the mouths of those who have never been closer to conflict than raised voices, a shove or a drunken slap.

They were on the Maracaibo run bringing crude oil from Venezuela to the oil-refinery in Aruba. He never spoke about it to me- it was part of the family legend and some things you knew better than tobelfast-blitz broach. My mother, meanwhile, an ocean away, helped console the shattered survivors of the Luftwaffe’s attacks on Belfast.

They made monsters in those days, and even the ordinary people seemed larger-than-life. But I was born into the next age, the Age of Anxiety. In the early sixties, Castro was a renegade on the rampage not too far to the north- but somehow comic with his beard and cigar, a Latin Groucho Marx rather than the more imposing German Karl.

However, the Cuban missile crisis sparked nervous cocktail conversations in the patios of cuban-missile-crisisexpatriate Americans: You can bet the refinery will be hit! The periodicals were full of details of how to build bomb shelters. The commie bastards would, of course, be utterly destroyed. MAD was more than a magazine title, in those days.

 As I write this, spring approaches western Sydney: I hear and see helicopters passing overhead. I think they may be police aircraft and I wonder who or what they are searching for. 70 years ago last month, the crew of a B-29 captained by Colonel Paul Tibbets dropped a bomb nicknamed Little Boy on the Japanese city of Hiroshima killing 80,000 people instantly,hiroshima-shadow

Burned onto the step, cracked and watery red,/the mark of the blood that flowed as intestines melted to mush:/a shadow. Who were you?

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Script for audio journal Volume 4 Harlequin's Poles

SQ 39 Outlaws

Entry 39: Outlaws- We need our outlaws- but only at the distance of myth and not in ourmolotov day-to-day existence. The archaic Roman concept of homo sacer may be illuminating here: it refers to the accursed man, that is, a person who is outside the protection of the law and may be killed with impunity. Wanted: dead or alive and shoot on sight are aligned with this concept.

But, in its ancient definition and in its etymology, it also refers to the sacred man; that is, a person who is outcast from society but cannot be used as a ritual sacrifice. So then, the core meaning of homo sacer unites the unpunishability of his killing and the ban on his sacrifice! This curious linkage makes it fertile ground for learned debate but I will just limit myself to the reference in order to point to the ambiguity of our response, as a community, to the outlaw.

robin-hoodThe common folk have always celebrated those who stick it to the man. The common lot of the common man, woman and child is to endure the insults and imposts of authority as part of their lived experience. The legend of Robin Hood is probably as old as Chaucer and robbing the rich to give to the poor will always have massive popular support if for no other reason that there are far fewer of the former than the latter.

Billy the Kid lives on in the imagination of novelists, biographers, screenwriters and, morebilly potently, in the games of children. Born a Catholic in Northern Ireland, I absorbed tales of heroes and rebels from Cú Chulainn to James Connolly. Cú Chulainn was quite a lad; listen to this anecdote about him,

One day, overhears the seer, Cathbad, teaching his pupils. One asks him what that day is auspicious for, and Cathbad replies that any warrior who takes arms that day will have everlasting fame. Cú Chulainn, though only seven years old, goes to the king, Conchobar, and asks for arms. But when Cathbad sees this he grieves, because cu-chulainnhe had not finished his prophecy—the warrior who took arms that day would be famous, but his life would be short.

Soon afterwards, he sets off on a foray and kills three warriors who had boasted they had killed more Ulstermen than there were Ulstermen still living. He returns in his battle frenzy still, and the people are afraid he will slaughter them all. Conchobar’s wife leads out the women and they bare their breasts to him. The seven year-old averts his eyes, and the Ulstermen are able to wrestle him into a barrel of cold water, which explodes from the heat of his body. They put him in a second barrel, which boils, and a third, which warms to a pleasant temperature.

major-generalIn late 1969, I was in my college room with the British-born co-editor of the magazine we had named TET after the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong coordinated attacks of the year before. The mag was filled with the bog-standard lefty student satire of the late 60s. We were coolly ironic and I was playing I am the very model of the modern major-general at volume.

Then, the door of the room burst open and a phalanx of full-throated students startedconnolly singing: A great crowd had gathered outside of Kilmainham…the opening line of one of the most popular rebel songs- James Connolly. After this rousing riposte to the quintessentially British ditty I had been playing, we all laughed good-naturedly.

But that was to change: within a couple of years, there was no more room for satire as a polity more grim and driven by the increasing violence in the province and, particularly, Belfast, replaced the SRC of which I had been a member and which had funded the production of the magazine. I guess that the barrel I had been in started out pleasantly warm but, all too soon, became too hot for me to handle. Not being Cú Chulainn, I began planning for a life away from the increasingly bloody streets of Belfast.

aussie-musicIn Australia, I found a place that was a sanctuary that was familiar but strange at the same time. The anti-authoritarianism, sense of humour, folk music and love of the underdog were like an old coat but the rips, leeches, spiders and swooping birds punctured the homelike elements, somewhat. Before too long I was playing in a couple of folk ensembles, one Irish and one Australian.

Most people think of Ned Kelly as the icon of Aussie outlaws and I suppose he is. Sidneyned Nolan certainly thought so, producing a series of paintings featuring the outlaw with his iron helmet on horseback in a variety of evocative Australian landscapes.

But the bushranger I first sang about was Ben Hall, shot dead in ambush at age 27 in 1865 by eight heavily-armed policemen.

benhallBill Dargin he was chosen to shoot the outlaw dead,/The troopers then fired madly and they filled him full of lead,/They rolled him in his blanket and strapped him to his prad,/ And they led him through the streets of Forbes, to show the prize they had.

 We need our outlaws.

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SQ 40 Patrimony

Entry 40: Patrimony- When you reach a certain age, you look back and tot up what it is youdives have achieved and what, if anything, you can pass on. Consider a tramp dying in a ditch with nothing except holes in his pockets before the gates of a mansion filled with the products of opulence owned by a man who has fleets of ships and warehouses filled with consumer goods. Can you judge which man has more claim as to who is the better person? Which one is worthier of salvation? Do you need more information or will you leave the decision to a higher power, say, the Twittersphere?

snow-white-immortalized-by-disneyPatrimony is defined by Merriam-Webster as anything derivedcruella from one’s father or ancestors. It may be material and exogenous, such as that mansion or something less tangible but nevertheless real- such as an inheritable characteristic such as a predisposition to…what? Let us conduct a mind experiment where the progeny of St Francis of Assisi and Snow White are set against the issue of, say, Adolph Hitler and Cruella De Ville.

francisThe children: a boy and a girl from each union, are stranded on aadolf sinking ship. There are only two places left on the last lifeboat. You must choose who is to be saved. Do you save the girls? The boys? The pair from the forces of Good or those of the forces of Evil? Or one from each family? Choose. Perhaps you want to leave that to the Twittersphere, too…

Now lest any think that I am opposed to the digital universe which is disrupting so much of our lives and will continue to do so, let me say that I am more than happy to give it a big thumbs up. As an example, I am listening to a track that I thought was lost and gone forever- thanks to the power of musical streaming and downloading.

billy-the-mI am referring to Billy the Mountain, by Frank Zappa and the Mothers of Invention from an LP I bought in Wollongong in 1973 entitled Just Another Band from LA. I lost it, with a whole lot else, somewhere in the Seventies. For a fistful of digital dollars, I have recovered the lost item. Now, whether it’s a blessing or a cursejust-another-band remains to be seen. But back to the questions posed earlier: have you consulted anyone? Played a lifeline, perhaps? Where, or to whom, do you turn? As for me- I trust the artists- and the poets, in particular.

Countless millions of men have looked into a mirror as they shaved and conducted a silent Q&A as they started the day. Thomas Hardy must have had a similar colloquy sometime in the 19th Century.

mirrormanI am the family face;/ Flesh perishes, I live on,/ Projecting trait and trace/ Through time to times anon,/  And leaping from place to place/Over oblivion.

Let’s face it- our DNA is more durable than the stuff we squabble about endlessly.

The years-heired feature that can/ In curve and voice and eye/ Despise the human span/ Of durance- that is I;/ The eternal thing in man,/ That heeds no call to die.

 I love that line- the eternal thing in man that heeds no call to die. When I think of thedna faults and foibles that I possess in more than abundant measure, I spread the blame down the endless years back to our ancestral mother and father, and thus, feel that I am able to go on living. So, if I were you, I wouldn’t be so quick to discount the concept of Original Sin.

Be like me and turn around the Biblical curse of the sins of nasa-satellites-find-trigger-for-magnetic-explosions-near-earth-for-first-timethe fathers visited on subsequent generations and use it as an excuse. Worth a try, anyway.  Yeah, I know, I’m not fooling anyone, am I? I can’t answer the question of who should be allowed in the lifeboat. Our whole world is a lifeboat and the few privileged individuals who have stood outside it have attested to the ineluctable conclusion that we are all inheritors of the most precious gift the universe can bestow- our blue planet.

Now I’m listening to the last track of 2015’s The Best of The Grateful Dead, Standing on thestanding-on-the-moon Moon, written by Robert Hunter back in the late Eighties. Only twelve people in the history of the Earth have, in fact, stood on the moon. How many can you name? After Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, I mean? Even one?

 Of course, this sort of taunting is meaningless today- by thumbing your device you will thumb your nose at me, easily reciting these names: Pete Conrad, Alan Bean, Alan Shepard, Edgar Mitchell, David Scott, James Irwin, John Young, Charles Duke, Eugene Cernan, and Harrison Schmitt. At ten years of age I thought I would be an astronaut, but guess what? So where do we turn when our dreams turn to ash?

 billy-collinsMe? I turn to poetry. Billy Collins, the American poet laureate, wrote a brilliant poem entitled On Turning Ten. The last stanza: It seems only yesterday I used to believe/there was nothing under my skin but light./If you cut me I could shine./But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,/I skin my knees. I bleed. Do yourself a favour: find the whole poem and read it. Patrimony is really just the good stuff we tell each other.

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SQ 41 Rose

convict-stainEntry 41: Rose- Family secrets: everyone knows one or more about their own family and one or more about other families, if only through the media. What one generation may hang its head in shame over the next, more likely than not, just shrugs and says, so what! The convict stain in Australian society became a badge of honour in the space of a generation or two.

Distance in time lends enchantment to a roguish ancestor or two in the family tree. People who seek information about their family-treeforbears are more likely to advertise relationship to a pirate than an accountant. Note also, that privacy for individuals becomes an increasingly rare commodity in inverse proportion to the growing obfuscation surrounding the activities of transnational corporations and governments. The contradictory signals make reading the signs of the times about as reliable as the practice of palmistry.

I am reliably informed the Buddha once said “Three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth”. Much as I admire the ancient sage, smog covers the sunbuddha and coal-fired power station emissions deal with the moon for a lot of people a lot of the time. And the truth? The Roman procurator of Judea sometime around the end of the third decade of the first century asked what that was and the question has reverberated down the millennia since.

 When someone begins a sentence with the phrase, the fact is, chances are- it isn’t. Now, as usual, I don’t go to politicians or economists for answers, but poets. Denise Levertov wrote a poem entitled The Secret back in the 60s that is as thought-provoking now as then,

 deniseTwo girls discover/the secret of life /in a sudden line of/poetry./I who don’t know the/secret wrote/the line.

 Of course, the girls don’t reveal the line to Levertov’s informant and the poet knows that, now a week later, the line has been forgotten…

I love them/for finding what/I can’t find,/and for loving me/for the line I wrote,/and for forgetting it/so that/a thousand times, till death/finds them, they may/discover it again in other/lines/ …or/assuming there is/such a secret, yes,/for that/most of all.

 That is the sort of secret I can relate to. Unlike the secret that excludes everyone but theceiling-rose chosen few. Such as the rosy cross of the Rosicrucians. Roman banquet halls had roses painted on them so that matters discussed there under the influence of wine (sub vino) would also remain sub rosa or secret.

The Victorians loved floriography- the language of flowers and would exchange nosegays, charmingly known as tussie-mussies, and parade around with these small bouquets trying flowersto decipher what, if any, meaning lay hidden in the arrangements held by friends they might encounter in their perambulations.

So, if anyone presents you with an arrangement featuring aconite, aloe and lobelia, my advice would be for you to run a mile because, if my reading of the wreath is accurate, they represent misanthropy, grief and malevolence.

What’s in a name? as Shakespeare asked so memorably in Romeo and Juliet.  I wonder what was in the minds of my paternal great-grandparents when they christened their daughter Rose. As I write this, I am listening togerry The Grateful Dead’s version of the Dylan classic, Visions of Johanna, sung by Jerry Garcia before a crowd at the Delta Centre in Salt Lake City, Utah in February 1995: it’s a fitting close to the 2015 release of 30 Trips Around the Sun: The Definitive Live Story.

The crowd sing along, they know the words, they know the secret the same way the two girls knew the secret in the Denise Levertov poem which was written around the same time Dylan was writing this. The song’s on repeat as I drink doubles of Scotch and Cola out of a Rolling Stones’ tall glass and get torn up all over again over the fate of my father’s mother.

a-silhouetteI first  knew her as a photograph of an elegant Edwardian lady in an oval frame hanging in the reception room of my childhood home in Cushendall, Northern Ireland. My enquiries were deflected, brushed off with the bare bones info that this was my father’s mother but not the one who raised him.

My nephew later did a little delving into family history and rattled some skeletons in the closet. My grandmother had taken a trip to Germany on a ship captained by her husband in 1914 and had been interned because war had broken out. She was returned to Ireland without her husband and, driven out of her mind with worry, was confined to an insane asylum where she died before the end of the war.

Mental illness was a shameful thing for that generation so the only thing I heard was, she was delicate, highly strung, and other euphemisms of the kind. My nephew, a journalist,angel gained access to her medical records through FOI legislation and I was hurt to read about her pain, set down in clinical prose by the treating physician.

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SQ 42 Oblivion Mountain

linusEntry 42: Oblivion Mountain- You hang on to what is familiar, don’t you? Like Linus from Peanuts, have you a favourite blanket? Or an old rag doll passed down from great grandma? For me, books, first, and then music and the guitar have been sources of comfort and escape. Radio also was a refuge. Like so many people on the periphery of the great goings-on, I could stay abreast with events at the centre of the maelstrom through this medium.

bosnian-genocide-1992-prisoners-at-omarska-concentration-camp-near-prijedorHalfway through my sojourn in North Queensland in 1991, I was listening to Phillip Adams, the new presenter of Late Night Live on the ABC. I thought Europe had turned its back on the excesses of World War II but it was clear that a new barbarism had emerged as if it had never gone away at all. As Yugoslavia split apart, the various militias showed the world what atrocity really meant.

The unfolding tragedy as months turned into years is still vivid: skeletal images of Bosniak civilians in Serb-run concentration camps in August 1992 recalled the horror pics of Jewssarajevo-survival-map-1992-1996 in the death camps of the Nazis in 1945; the siege of Sarajevo lasted 1,425 days which was one year longer that the siege of Leningrad during World War II.

 Almost 14,000 souls perished during the siege but the fate of the Romeo and Juliet of Sarajevo shows the human and inhuman face simultaneously:  In 1993, the couple, Admira Ismić, a Bosniak, and rj-sarajevoBoško Brkić, a Bosnian Serb, decided to flee the city. Having friends on all sides involved in the conflict, there was a general thought that their passage through the city and its infamous Sniper Alley, under constant fire from hills occupied by the Serbs, could be a safe one. An arrangement was made for 19 May 1993 at 5:00 pm that no one would fire as the couple approached. According to Dino Kapin, who was a Commander of a Croatian unit allied at the time with Bosnian Army forces, around 5:00 pm, a man and a woman were seen approaching the Vrbjana Bridge. As soon as they were at the foot of the bridge, a shot was heard, and, according to all sides involved in their passage, the bullet hit Boško Brkić and killed him instantaneously. Another shot was heard and Admira Ismić screamed, fell down wounded, but was not killed. She crawled over to her boyfriend, cuddled him, hugged him, and died. It was observed that she was alive for at least 15 minutes after the shooting.

The appetite for such atrocities, far from sated, gathered intensity culminating in thesrebmassacre Sebrenica massacre in July 1995 when the genocidal killing of 8,000 Bosniak men and boys preceded the forcible transfer of between 25,000 and 30,000 Bosniak women, children and the elderly which was found to be confirming evidence of the genocidal intent of members of the Bosnian Serb Army Main Staff who had orchestrated the massacre in what the UN had declared to be a safe area.

calendarRape on a vast scale was used as a tactic by this group- and a new term entered our lexicon of horror: ethnic cleansing. Goran Simic’s poem, The Calendar is a stark reminder of the cost on a personal level among all the statistics.

I heard the fall of a leaf from a calendar./It was the leaf for the month of March. The calendar belongs to a girl I know./She spends each day checking the calendar/and watching her belly grow./Whatever is in her womb/was nailed there by drunken soldiers in some camp./It is something that feeds/on terrible images and a terrible silence./What fills the images?/Her bloodstained dress, perhaps,/fluttering from a pole like a flag?/What breaks the silence?/The fall of the month of March?/The footstep of her tormentor- his face/the child’s face, the face she will see/every day, every month, every year/for the rest of her life?/I don’t know. I don’t know./All I heard was the fall of a leaf from a calendar.

We all know there are no safe areas: who would have thought a pre-Christmas coffee andcafe cake at the Lindt Café in Sydney’s Martin place in 2014 would have turned into a horror show so soon after 28 Australians were among the 298 innocent civilians slaughtered above the Ukraine in July 2014 as a missile tore apart Malaysian Airways Flight 17. Meanwhile, on the ground below that fateful explosion at 33,000 feet, civilians continue to die, to starve, cut off from the benefits of life in the prosperous world of Europe in the second decade of the 21st Century.

 In October, 1995, I was in the back room of The Henry Lawson Club in Sydney’s outer west,crash waiting for the rest of the group to arrive for our practice session. I was early and I picked up my guitar and started to strum. On the far wall, a TV showed images of a Balkan War scene and gradually the music of Oblivion Mountain began to take shape. By the time the rest of the group arrived, I was scribbling the verses of the song onto my notepad.

 

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SQ 43 Pandora’s Box

Entry 43: Pandora’s Box- Blame Erasmus. Who, after all, can resist the urge to open thediogenes2 box? If instead, you were faced with a large jar, one large enough to house a body you might instead just give up especially if it were inhabited by Diogenes the Cynic who often slept in one in the marketplace of Ancient Athens.

diogenesHe was known for his philosophical exercises such as carrying a lamp in the daytime, claiming to be looking for an honest man. In his translation of the myth in the 16th Century, Erasmus renders the Greek word pithos which means a large jar- with pyxis which means a small box. From that time, reinforced by painters’ treatment of the myth, box it remains.

But I don’t want to leave the ancient Greeks just yet. zeus-angryZeus, somewhat miffed at Prometheus for gifting Man with fire, commanded Hephaestus to fashion Pandora out of clay. Let me say now that, when I referred to humanity as Man before, it wasn’t a PC lapse.

You see, this refers to the Golden Age, when the poet Hesiod explains how the end of man’s Golden Age, (an all-male society of immortals who were reverent to the gods, worked hard, and ate from abundant groves of fruit) was brought on by Prometheus, when he stole Fire from Mt. Olympus and gave it to mortal man, Zeus punished the technologically pandoras_box_waterhouse2advanced society by creating woman. Thus, Pandora was created as the first woman and given the jar which releases all evils upon man. The opening of the jar serves as the beginning of the Silver Age, in which man is now subject to death, and with the introduction of woman to birth as well, giving rise to the cycle of death and rebirth.

Of course the jar was opened! and this explains that bunion on your foot. The most puzzling part of the myth is what was left in the box. The Greeks have a word for it, elpis. This has been translated as Hope. So, ifelpis hope is left in the box, what sort of hope is being referred to?  My head hurt after reading the many contending views so I’ll just cite the astringent argument of Nietzsche and leave it for you to sort out,

One single evil had not yet slipped out of the jar. As Zeus had wished, Pandora slammed the top down and it remained inside. So now man has the lucky jar in his house forever and thinks the world of the treasure. It is at his service; he reaches for it when nietzschehe fancies it. For he does not know that the jar which Pandora brought was the jar of evils, and he takes the remaining evil for the greatest worldly good—it is hope, for Zeus did not want man to throw his life away, no matter how much the other evils might torment him, but rather to go on letting himself be tormented anew. To that end, he gives man hope. In truth, it is the most evil of evils because it prolongs man’s torment.

 crtSome mistakes you profit from- I refer here to the pithos to pyxis of Erasmus: how else could I draw the line so strongly between older TVs where the cathode ray tube nestles in a box-like housing, with the ills which stream from the contraption into the world of the 20th Century where I have lived the majority of my life? TV was also called the idiot box and blamed for all sorts of ills that poured from it- inciting teens to promiscuous sex and the like.

nemerovThe metaphor doesn’t work in the 21st Century though: flat-screen TVs aren’t boxlike and, in any case, the exploding world of alternative devices and ways of receiving information and entertainment means that no longer do we crouch before the electronic sage in the corner, communally absorbing its emanations. But for a few generations, it was a way of life and Howard Nemerov, in a poem entitled A Way of Life, spoke for those now receding generations,

It’s been going on a long time./For instance, these two guys, not saying much, who slog/Through sun and sand, fleeing the scene of their crime,/Till one turns, without a sound, and smacks/His buddy flat with the flat of an axe./Which cuts down on the dialogue/Some, but is viewed rather as normal than sad/By me, as I wait for the next ad./It seems to me it’s been quite a while/Since the last vision of blonde loveliness/Vanished, her shampoo and shower and general style/Replaced by this lean young lunkhead/ parading along with a gun in his back to confess/How yestereve, being drunk/And in a state of existential despair,/He beat up his grandma and pawned her invalid chair./But here at last is a pale beauty/ Smoking a filter beside a mountain stream,/Brief interlude, before the conflict of love and duty/Gets moving again, as sheriff and posse expound,/Between jail and saloon, the American Dream/Where Justice, after considerable horsing around,/Turns out to be Mercy; when the villain is knocked off,/A kindly uncle offers syrup for my cough. 

We sit, chained to the walls of our caves watching the dancing shadows projected from thecave fire behind.

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SQ 44 Paul

Entry 44: Paul- Horror movies, the howling werewolf, black-cloaked vampires withwv preternatural strength, swamp monsters, assorted trolls, goblins and giants from grim folk tales peopled?…no, creatured my hungry, youthful imagination fed by books and movies that seem quaint today beside the chic- ironic, yet puerile, slayer in designer clothes wisecracking to befuddled, barely-comprehending adults as demons explode in colourful pixels against the point of her post-modern wooden stake.

eichmann_adolfAnother generation’s hunger for information about the dark side is nourished by a flashier special- effects menu than was available to mine. And those years of feeding at the table of horrors wasn’t preparation enough to enable me to comprehend the real horrors that lurked in recent history. I remember when Eichmann was captured by the Israelis and tried in Jerusalem. I looked in vain for the mark of the Beast on those bland features. I had read The Scourge of the Swastika and stared at stark photographs of black-booted sinisters, some smoking nonchalantly, standing over pits of murdered people. Could this bespectacled clerk be the author of so many deaths?

Yes. At the behest of his Master. In concert with others of his bureaucratic kind who were in on the secret. Aided and abetted by the minor functionaries who enable the infrastructure of modern society. Made possible, finally, because so many people could look away and later deny any knowledge. But the answer still doesn’t make sense.

All our resources of language, all our intelligence, sensibilities, sensitivities, imagination fall short of the task. And even our greatest poets despair at delineating the horror that was the Holocaust- still the pattern par excellence for the bland-featured sociopaths who have a plan that doesn’t include so many on this earth and whose solution is every bit as final as that proposed at the Wanwannseensee Conference so many years ago.

When I was 22, I read Paul Celan’s great poem about the Holocaust, The Fugue of Death in translation and from that time I have remembered the savage, splintered imagery in times of stress and trauma.

Black milk of daybreak we drink it at nightfall/we drink it at noon in the morning we drink it at night/drink it and drink it/we are digging a grave in the sky it is ample to lie there/

celanBut the English fails to capture the black angularities of the original: for that, go to YouTube and listen to the poet himself reading this work. The world of the poem is one of shouting, digging, dark music playing, serpents, dogs, glittering stars, smoke, whistles, stabbing and two women: the golden haired Margarete and the ashen haired Shulamith.

And there is also a man with eyes of blue, a man in the house your golden hair Margarete/your ashen hair Shulamith he plays with the serpents/He shouts play sweeter death’s music death comes as a master from Deutschland/he shouts stroke darker the strings and as smoke you shall climb to the sky/then you’ll have a grave in the clouds it is ample to lie there.

 Have you supped full of horrors yet? I am glad that my dish has been, largely, vicariousscrewtape. My mind is not filled with the scorpions tyrants have to contend with nightly. C.S. Lewis, author of those innocent, those enabling fictions, the Narnia tales, also wrote The Screwtape Letters during the dark years of the Second World War. His readers, avid for more insights into the Satanic mind, were disappointed when he called it quits. He could no longer bear the burden of dwelling imaginatively in those dark regions. He feared for his very soul. And rightly so.

lifeHuman life needs light and love and natural things and if this means a quotidian existence where one has to forgo the depths of Faustian knowledge and the heights of Elysian experience, then, so be it. Limits are, often, not so much limiting, as lifesaving, after all. And again and again poets come to the rescue.

One of my favourites, Carol Ann Duffy, comes to the rescue with a poem entitled Prayer,carol

Some days, although we cannot pray, a prayer/utters itself. So, a woman will lift/her head from the sieve of her hands and stare/at the minims sung by a tree, a sudden gift./Some nights, although we are faithless, the truth/enters our hearts, that small familiar pain;/then a man will stand stock-still, hearing his youth/in the distant Latin chanting of a train.

 blessingAnd another from James Arlington Wright entitled A Blessing where, with a friend, he greets two Indian ponies in their meadow, in itself a metaphor of love. One of the ponies has walked over and nuzzled his hand,

…the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear/That is delicate as the skin over a girl’s wrist./Suddenly I realise/That if I stepped out of my body I would break/Into blossom.

 A final prayer, that all those hurt and murdered blossom forever.blossoms

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SQ 45 The Ballroom of Romance

Entry 45: The Ballroom of Romance- Was it a dream or, perhaps, a nightmare? Was I there inballroom that rural dance-hall in Ireland in the late 1960s- a trio, with my brother and cousin? Maybe it was an atavistic, male, cautionary tale, but I can remember a shiver of premonitory trepidation as I approached the first girl in the line at the opposite end of the fluorescently-lit hall.

May I have this dance? I asked politely. Sorry, no. rejectionThe accent was a lilting brogue that brought welts up on my soul. I could feel the eyes: from across the hall, my brother and cousin smirking and a ruck of male unknowns- as well as the sidelong glances and micro-expressions of amusement from the girls who had heard the put-down, stretching, as it seemed to me, to the crack of doom.

Fancy a dance? I asked the next girl, feigning a couldn’t-care-less slouch. She didn’t evengirls answer but turned away and continued a conversation with her friend. I don’t have to go on, do I? In some sad corner of my imagination I am in that dance-hall to this very day, moving along a line of increasingly lovely girls who reject me in a variety of fiendishly humiliating ways.

As I recall, Larry Cunningham and the Mighty Avons were playing that night. Happily, this experience was not typical of my encounters in irish-showbandsnightclubs and dance-halls during the latter half of the 1960s. Club Rado and the Jazz Club, Romano’s and the Astor in Belfast, the Marquee in Cushendall and Castlegreen on the road to Ballycastle were among the magical places where people could meet and mingle to music that was of a surprisingly high quality.

In the years and decades since those times, social interaction has moved increasingly online. The dance-halls, ballrooms and musical soirees of the past have not survived in any great number, I would guess.

How I came to write The Ballroom of Romance involved a family holiday to see the sights oflough-mcnean Enniskillen and then a couple of days in a cabin on Lough MacNean bisected by the Irish border. This was in 1985. Having driven for some hours, feeling a bit tired from the trip, I sat out on a bench with my guitar and watched the water-birds among the reeds. A sequence of notes stuck in my head and I started to find the accompanying chords.

brendaThe original ballroom of romance was located across the Lough in the nearby village of Glenfarne: a famous location drawing crowds from the surrounding parishes for generations. I had viewed the short movie about this place a few years before. Starring Brenda Fricker, the evocation of the desperation faced by her 36-year-old character Bridie who has been putting on her best dress every Friday night for twenty years in order to attend the Ballroom of Romance has stayed with me for decades.

Based on a short story by Willian Trevor, it explores the themes of isolation, longing,farm emigration and lost love. Set in the eponymous ballroom in 1950s rural Ireland, it is by turns, poignant, funny and excruciating as we follow Bridie from the farm she shares with her crippled father to the windswept dance venue. She hopes to form an alliance with the drummer in the trio which is providing the music for the dance. He is dependable, doesn’t drink and will be able to help her run the hardscrabble hill farm when her ailing father dies.

boozersShe realises, however, during the tea-break, that his landlady has her hooks into him and, so, she retires from that romantic field of battle. Her only other choice is one of another trio: three middle-aged boozy no-hopers who attend the dance every week after fuelling up at the nearby pub. Bowser Egan is the man- not of her dreams, for that person emigrated to England when she was still a young woman, nor is he the second choice, for the silver medal goes to the drummer in the band.

No, Bowser, is a poor and distant third as the end of the film demonstrates: following herbowser as she makes her way towards home on her bicycle, he renews his suit, promising to come and see her as soon as his mother has gone to meet her maker- a reformed man who will even make her a little flower garden. Then, a pause, and his main reason for being there, Will you come into the field, Bridie?

Afterwards, Bridie cycles home as Bowser, looking after her with a satisfied contempt, finishes off his whiskey and tosses the bottle into the field. I wonder how many men ask themselves, in relation to their partners, which of the trio they are: the golden paragon, the abstemious silver second, or the grubby bronze

Bowser leering into the darkness, who will never know the pleasures of poetry such as Conrad Aiken’s,

He saw her body’s slender grace,/This drooping shoulder, shadowed face;/All of her body, hidden so/In saffron satin’s flush and flow,/Its white and simple loveliness,/Came on his heart like giddiness,/ Seductive as this music came;/Until her body seemed like flame…

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SQ 46 Everything Goes/Restless Paces

Entry 46: Everything Goes/Restless Paces- What is the plan, now? Have you ever heard this?a-plan In some meeting, in some relationship, in some internal conversation you have had with yourself- perhaps as part of a cognitive behaviour therapy you are undergoing?

I knew there was something wrong with me from the mid-nineties. I had banging headaches, nausea, an inability to think beyond tomorrow and a contradictory belief that I was invincible, somehow. Meeting with an old friend who was living up Glebe Point Road in an apartment, I celebrated my return to Sydney from North Queensland in 1995 by getting horribly drunk and raving like a lunatic.

demi-mondeThis was not perceived as being out of order because my life had been, for so many years, constructed out of these bricks of self-destruction. Why they did not crash down upon my head? I have had reason to reflect upon it the years since. So many times I have been, because of my affection for the demi-monde and, particularly, alcohol, in situations of considerable danger.

Now, I could cite a guardian angel as the reason angel-guardianfor my survival- but I know that is part of this whole magical thinking phenomenon. We all live till we die. Nothing will alter the fact that there is a limit to life. Do you want to live forever? Not me, but, given the choice, I don’t want to go just yet! So much to do; so much to see; so much to… you get the drift.

I know that I have dodged death so many times. A gun pointed at my head in Belfast; a confrontation with a brace of violent men on a secluded road; a miraculous save from a road accident in Warrawong- I could go on- as I am sure all of you can. Lots of times we don’t even know that we have dodged a bullet, because nothing happened. Luck, Lady Fortuna, Serendipity and Synchronicity are terms you may a-wheel-of-fortunewell be familiar with. But what do you think about this insight into the nature of perception:

In contrast to an epiphany, an apophany does not provide insight into the nature of reality or its interconnectedness but is a “process of repetitively and monotonously experiencing abnormal meanings in the entire surrounding experiential field”. Such meanings are entirely self-referential, solipsistic, and paranoid.

 If I knew what that meant, I would tell you. But I think you are way in front- an apophanyapophany is just absolute shite, the opposite of what James Joyce famously termed as an epiphany. Yet, just about everyone I know; everyone who has spoken to me about the deep and meaningful stuff, has, at one time or another, talked about “a sudden spiritual manifestation, whether from some object, scene, event, or memorable phase of the mind–the manifestation being out of proportion to the significance or strictly logical relevance of whatever produces it.” 

 epiphanyAnd here’s the thing: I hate listening to others wittering on about their meaningful objects, scenes, events, et cetera. And I’m going to do just that. At the turn of the millennium…actually the year 2000, but who’s counting, my eyesight began to fade, I was feeling dreadful- beyond hangover, which I was habituated to. I felt mortality pressing down on me more than usual and the dreams of death were becoming tiresomely frequent.

 I knew I had extreme idiopathic hypertension in
a-leaf 1996 when my doctor told me not to return to work the next day (as I was in danger of dropping dead at any second) and sent me on a round of tests and dosed me with a large number of pharmaceutical products that finally got the blood pressure under control.

 But this was new, and yet another test revealed that my blood sugar was through the ceiling. The joys of ageing- in my case accelerated by what is referred to euphemistically as lifestyle choices. So then, what is this apophany I’ve been talking about?

Well, I have to bring up another neologism at this point- patternicity. Michael Shermer, founder of the Sceptics Society, coined this one in 2008, when he defined it as, the tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t this what happens in just about every meeting in the workplace today?

aboreSomeone spouting crap in multisyllabic torrents as nodding heads around the table give assent to the madness. So, I nodded with the panic dwarfs and waited for too many years until the mortgage was paid and the government decided that it could pay me a stipend, called the age pension for the rest of my days. What was this apophany?

 Listen: I have repetitively and monotonously experienced the feeling that I count fora-world something. And that you do, too. Insane, isn’t it? William Blake put it in these terms, To see a world in a grain of sand/And heaven in a wild flower/Hold infinity in the palm of your hand/And eternity in an hour. Lord, where would we be without our poets?

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SQ 47 Waiting For the Drought to Break

a-creation-myth

Entry 47: Waiting for the Drought to Break- Writers, any writer, is a god. You summon something out of nothing- even if it’s dire, ordinary, inconsequential. Is this how the Creator felt in that unknowable state before time and space existed at the instant of creation? ‘cause, let’s admit it- we are not a particularly good product, are we?

I know, staring at the screen now, that the prior 61 words will not prompt Shakespeare to spin in his grave over there in Stratford. But still, we are gods, aren’t we? Conjuring something out of nothing remains a deep mystery to me. Enticing others to engage with the effluvia seems like a confidence trick, at times. Yet we go on, don’t we?

books

Whenever I visit my local library, I am struck by the huge number of books that I will never read. I don’t care too much about the stuff that I have no inclination to read, but I am haunted by the fear that I may pass by the one volume on the shelf that holds the key to my salvation- be it spiritually or secularly defined. The paralysis of too much choice: it has been defined and studied. So, how do we break this stasis?

a-space-image

I like to resort to absurdity. I imagine an intergalactic auction where Lot 354 is an audio recording of the last fart emitted by the last survivor of the human race. It is passed in for lack of interest in one iteration of the fantasy; in another, it sparks a bidding frenzy where whole star systems are put up as collateral. See what I mean about being god-like? Why read when you can write- yeah! In my case, why half-read when you can half-write. I have a shelf full of books that I have yet to finish reading as well as a drawer full of writing projects that are suspended: just waiting for the drought to break.

a-mowing-scene

Another example of absurdity happens in spring and summer. I trundle the mower from the shed and check the oil, clean the air-filter, replenish the petrol and stoop down, bracing for the inevitable. I grasp the starter cord and, having ensured the choke is on and the fuel tap open, I briskly pull the cord out. Nothing happens. Sometimes my shoulder and arm are aching, repetitive strain having taken its toll, and I am on the verge of tears of rage and frustration. Yet, at some point, even if it’s the next day or the day after, the mower roars to life and I stride out muttering your ass is grass to the expanse of weeds, dandelions and struggling fragments of lawn that masquerade as my suburban back-yard.

aussie-backyard

This is analogous to the difficulties of fashioning this entry: which you may have guessed from the mention of God at the beginning and the subsequent references to mystery and astronomy. But the motor is running, the blades are spinning and the unruly growth hiding the fecund earth is being tucked into the catcher in readiness for transfer to the organics bin which will be proudly wheeled to the kerb on collection day, confirming me as a successful suburban citizen. I feel, at times, like the man in Bruce Dawe’s poem, Homo Suburbiensis,

…hearing vaguely the clatter of a disk/in a sink that could be his, hearing a dog, a kid,/a far whisper of traffic, and offering up instead/Not much but as much as any man can offer/- time, pain, love, hate, age, war, death, laughter, fever.

a-murphy-image
a-watt-image

Almost like Beckett, who is another writer I look to for a commentary on existence. I first came across him as a student in 1969, having borrowed his 1938 novel, Murphy from the Belfast City library. It was a matter of you had me at hello. Its opening line marked the start of a journey through his output that is not yet over. The line? The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new. Try this out for size, But he had turned, little by little, a disturbance into words, he had made a pillow of old words, for his head, from the novel Watt, written in Roussillon, southern France, where Beckett, a member of the French Resistance, had gone to evade the ministrations of the Gestapo.

a-the-end-image
a-unnameable-image

In the short prose work, The End, an old man, yet another in a line of tramps and down-and-outs that inhabit Beckett’s world in droves remarks, I tried to groan, Help! Help! But the tone that came out was that of polite conversation. The bleak novel, The Unnameable, ends with a phrase that has provided sustenance for decades, you must go on, I can’t go on, I’ll go on.

There is no room in this entry to even scratch the surface of this artist’s dramatic output- in any case, you need to see plays like Waiting for Godot, Krapp’s Last Tape or Happy Days to get the full meaning. This is true of any play but, for Beckett, the minutiae of set, costume and stage direction were integral parts of the drama rather than mere background or dressing.

a-beckett-tattoo

I’ll leave you with a quote from 1983’s Worstward Ho, which I think I’ve seen as a tattoo on one of the many ink shows on TV, Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.  Fail better!   

<div style=”font-size: 10px; color: #cccccc;line-break: anywhere;word-break: normal;overflow: hidden;white-space: nowrap;text-overflow: ellipsis; font-family: Interstate,Lucida Grande,Lucida Sans Unicode,Lucida Sans,Garuda,Verdana,Tahoma,sans-serif;font-weight: 100;”><a href=”https://soundcloud.com/user-57392937&#8243; title=”Quentin Bega” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Quentin Bega</a> · <a href=”https://soundcloud.com/user-57392937/waiting-for-the-drought-to-breaktrio&#8221; title=”Waiting For The Drought To Break(trio)” target=”_blank” style=”color: #cccccc; text-decoration: none;”>Waiting For The Drought To Break(trio)</a></div>

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SQ 48 Coda

Entry 48: Coda– Our heroes should remain distant: beyond the realm of the living,beckett preferably. A fringe-dweller forever, I have been in little danger of tripping over any of the living legends that I have revered over the years, some of whom have been memorialised in these entries. Samuel Beckett, himself, of course, a legend to many and a genuine hero in that he put his life on the line for the French Resistance during the Second World War, came a cropper when he met with one of his heroes in Dublin.

flann-o-brienI read somewhere that he was not too impressed upon meeting with that chameleon, Flann O’Brien, a.k.a. Myles Na gColapeen a.k.a Brian O’Nolan who has given the world such masterpieces in fiction as At Swim-Two Birds and The Third Policeman. Writing as Myles Na gColapeen, he wrote a column in The Irish Times entitled Cruiskeen Lawn from 1940 until his death in 1966 in which he regularly bit the hand that fed him, excoriating the Irish managerial class.

And he did pay the price, being forced to resign from the Irish Civil Service in 1953 at the age of 42. Unlike James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, he did not flee the stultifying Ireland of the 40s and 50s but chose to remain, being, indeed, the mainstay of his family of 11 brothers and sisters after the death of his father in 1937. But at what price? This game is played on websites across the world and at many a convention and conference where his oeuvre is endlessly discussed.

He could have, some say, escaped the confines of the repressive milieu that blighted life for so many for so long- driving our hero, among legions of thirsty, like-minded escapees,irish-pub into myriad pubs in cities, towns, villages and hamlets across the length and breadth of the Emerald Isle. He may not have become an alcoholic and consequently have been liberated to write many more masterpieces.

So the argument goes- and who knows… and who will ever know because there is no way of resetting that life or any other. Another- and better- game that is played is based on a popular occasional component of his column Cruiskeen Lawn, The Various Lives of Keats and Chapman. chapman-keatsThis is taken from The Spectator of 12 October 1990, but you can easily find current iterations of the game online- Flann O’Brien invented this game, which features the two characters above- mentioned. The idea is to involve them both in a long-drawn-out, po-faced but unlikely story, which is finally crowned (or sunk) by an excruciating pun on the part of Keats. Here is a very short example:The poet and Chapman once visited a circus. Chapman was very impressed by an act in which lions were used. A trainer entered a cage in which were two ferocious-looking specimens, sat down unconcernedly, took out a paper, and began to read. `He’s reading between the lions,’ Keats said.”

Yes, you either love it or loathe it: if it’s amor then the pun is mightier than the sword. Too much? But this is light stuff, and you should read At Swim-Twoat-swim-two-birds Birds, published in 1939 when the author was 28, to appreciate his astonishing demolition of the conventional novel form. Why have one opening when you can have three? Where characters can conspire among themselves to drug their fictional creator in order to avoid the melodrama of his plots and have a normal existence? Where separate plot-lines can merge and tangle? Where natural and supernatural characters coexist and where language, exuberant and playful, dances on the page.

Unfortunately, even the imprimatur of Graham Greene was no match for a German bomb which destroyed warehoused copies of his novel in 1940. But this did not stop me mimeographing excerpts from this magic tome for my students at Warrawong at-warrawong-high-schoolHigh School in the 1970s. I loved this stuff and I wanted my students to know the liberation that language could make possible and I still hope that some of those I taught will get in touch to tell me that either, I was just a windbag, or someone who gave them the means of escape.

But I revere The Third Policeman. Written within a year or two of his first novel, it found no favour among the readers of contemporary publishers. Disheartened, he put this masterpiece on the mantelpiece and told people that it had been lost. Turns out, in was in sight there for the rest of his life but was not published until aftera-thrird-policeman-image his death. The Third Policeman, in my opinion, is among the most profound novels in modern literature. I know that I have felt like the protagonist of the novel: what am I doing? How did I come to be here? What are they saying to me? When will I understand what is going on?

As it turns out, the protagonist is in Hell, having been blown up by the man to whom he has given over the running of the farm. A bit like Prospero giving to his brother the mundane chore of administrating the Dukedom…